Steelers WR Ward ready to accept new role
Hines Ward didn't pout. He didn't question the limited number of plays he was on the field for Sunday. And he didn't wallpaper the Steelers locker room with his resume in case anyone has forgotten he is the most decorated receiver in Steelers history.
If Ward has been supplanted by two wide receivers who are still behind him on the Steelers' depth chart, he is taking the demotion in stride.
"It's not about me, it's about the team," said Ward, who watched much of the Steelers' 24-17 win in Cincinnati from the sidelines. "The bottom line is, we won the game."
Ward did not start against the Bengals — Antonio Brown got the nod opposite Mike Wallace — and he had just one catch for 10 yards.
Ward said the coaches did not talk to him about a reduced role before the game. The 14th-year veteran said his health was not an issue, even though he had been knocked out of the previous week's game with concussion-like symptoms.
He said the Steelers went into the game with separate packages when they used two wide receivers: one for him and Wallace, and one for Brown and Wallace.
The Steelers mostly went with Brown and Wallace out of the two-wide receiver sets. Jerricho Cotchery played ahead of Ward when the Steelers used three wide receivers.
"Those are questions for the coaches," Ward said when asked about it. "I just have to move forward. I am not going to be angry. I have to go out and continue being the player I am and a leader on this team."
Ward, who is in his seventh season as an offensive captain, is not accustomed to being the odd man out.
Ward is a former Super Bowl MVP, and he holds almost every Steelers receiving record. The 14th-year veteran is on the doorstep of two milestones — 1,000 career receptions and 12,000 receiving yards — but his pursuit of those has turned into a crawl.
Ward would end the season with 999 career catches if he averages three receptions per game, something he did through his first nine games.
If Ward is frustrated about becoming less of a factor in the passing game, he didn't show it yesterday.
"It's a different role," Ward said. "I am still going to be the biggest cheerleader because I want to win. Whatever I can do to help this team win ball games, giving advice or when my number is called (by) making a play. Just continue doing that and have a positive attitude."
His teammates said he has been nothing but positive.
Cotchery, who made his first touchdown catch as a Steeler last Sunday, calls Ward "my biggest supporter."
Wallace said Ward has reinforced the message that nobody is bigger than the team with the way he stayed in the game at Cincinnati.
"As soon as I'd get to the sidelines, he'd be like, 'You should have done this, you should have done that. I saw this, I saw that,' " Wallace said. "He sees everything and knows everything that's going on. He's like an extra coach out there.
"When you have a guy that's been here and the situation he's in and he's still positive about it, how can I come to the sidelines and be down or mad or have anything bad to say?"
Ward, who is 35 and in the next-to-last year of his contract, said it would be premature to write him off.
"I still believe in myself, probably more than most people," Ward said. "I just have to continue being positive, continue working hard."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Defense sags in NFL rankings because of struggles against the run
- Steelers not receiving big returns on their offseason investments
- Steelers film session: Missed tackles prove costly
- Robinson: There’s no telling when play of aging QBs will fall off
- Steelers’ defense out of sync
- Big Ben’s struggles emblematic of loss
- Heyward confident youthful Steelers defense will improve
- Steelers intrigued by athleticism of free agent Jones
- Steelers’ Bell gets bulk of team’s touches
- Mistakes multiply for Steelers in rout by Ravens
- Steelers notebook: NFL fines Brown for kick to face